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Illegal land clearing at Evans Head busted

NO DENYING IT: Aerial photos of Iron Gates, near Evans Head, show a considerable amount of land has been cleared, contrary to court orders.
NO DENYING IT: Aerial photos of Iron Gates, near Evans Head, show a considerable amount of land has been cleared, contrary to court orders. Al Oshlack

THE NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has confirmed it is investigating reports of illegal land clearing at the Iron Gates site near Evans Head.

In 1997 a legal challenge by the Environmental Defenders Office on behalf of Al Oshlack stopped a controversial subdivision and residential development for 700 houses at the site.

The Land and Environment Court found the breaches of the development consent were so serious the consent was rendered null and void.

In a landmark judgment, the court ordered a full restoration of the site upon which substantial works had taken place.

The company that owned the land, Iron Gates Pty Ltd, is in receivership and liquidator Ross Duus said he was unaware of any change of ownership or land clearing at the site.

Residents reported seeing bulldozers leaving the site recently and smoke from fires in the area.

Aerial photos have now been obtained that seem to show a considerable area has been cleared, with one resident suggesting it could be as much as 10ha.

Mr Oshlack said any work on the site would be a clear breach of the court orders.

"There are restraining orders that remain with the land (regardless of whether ownership has changed) and what has happened here looks to be a deliberate and serious contempt of the court," he said.

Mr Oshlack said the EDO is looking at the evidence to see if there is now a criminal case to be answered.

The area is bordered on three sides by national park and contains rare coastal rainforest, a wetland and an abundance of wildlife, including threatened species.

Richmond Valley Council general manager John Walker said it was not a matter for them to investigate but confirmed they have been in contact with OEH about the alleged clearing.

However Mr Oshlack said the council had a responsibility to ensure proper governance of the Environmental Planning Act and said they should be "making inquiries at the very least, if not prosecuting".

Mr Walker said it was "entirely a matter for them (OEH) at this stage".

He said the land was still zoned for residential development and he "expected a DA in the not-too-distant future".

Topics:  evans head office of environment and heritage



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